Colorado is my first love. This state is not just the setting for my life story (thus far), it is a central character. It is the backdrop and a main tenet. I feel like I know Colorado like I would know a beloved relative, someone who shares my heritage and my blood. But I cannot even begin to claim to know this land like those who have spent their lives actively working it.
Two weeks ago I ventured into the eastern part of Colorado for a story with the Denver Post local section. My destination: A century-plus year old farm in Strasburg. An arm of the state had recognized this property as one of its Colorado Centennial Farms, not a small feat when the parameters of such an accomplishment are considered.
↣ The farm must be owned by the same family continuously for at least 100 years.
↣ The farm must still be a full-fledged working farm.
↣ The farm must be at least 160 acres in size.
There are nearly 500 farms that have been granted this title since the program began in 1986. Only six in Adams County, which is where I headed in mid-September to meet Ray “Stubby” Schmidt.
Mr. Schmidt, 93, was born on Schmidt Farm — a homestead originally settled by his father, William, in 1908. In fact, Mr. Schmidt was born in the exact room that he now sleeps in each night, in a house built decades ago. He grew up on this property, watching first his mother and father work the land, and then eventually taking over ownership and management of it himself. He can tell you what it was like back then, how everything changed, when everything changed. He can relate how they survived dust storms, droughts, snowfall after snowfall. Hard times and good times. He dedicated his life to this piece of land, and managed to keep it going despite the challenges brought on by drastic alterations to the industry.
While there wasn’t much activity happening on this particular piece of the now several-thousand-acre farm (the working part of the farm is leased out to another entity to operate), I so enjoyed hearing its story and walking around the old and well-used structures. Witnessing the history of Colorado in a new way. I think in another life I could have been a farmer myself.